02-Jan-2012 -- As I was in the area to get a jump on the GIS education work for 2012 and to attend the GeoDesign Summit at Esri Redlands, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect way to start the new year, and the week. It was just 2 years ago in this same vicinity that I did the same thing. The only problem after all of these trips was that I had covered all of the confluences in southern California with the exception of 35 North 116 West. I lacked the time to do that one today, but I thought 34 North 114 West was doable, even though it was to the east in Arizona. Therefore, after landing at the Palm Springs Airport (PSP), I headed east out of town, and soon was on Interstate Highway 10, crossing the Mojave Desert. It was a beautiful sunny warm winter day, the kind of day that tempts one to move to southern California, as many have, from Minnesota or Vermont, or at least to visit. I did not stop, though I would have liked to, because I needed to get to work immediately after my time in the field. But the drive and the subsequent hike would do me good as it was the second day of 2012, an excellent opportunity to reflect on past blessings and look forward to making a positive difference in this new year.
After 90 minutes I reached Blythe, oftentimes the location of the highest temperature in the USA in the summer, crossing over the Colorado River and into Arizona. The road crossed a small mountain range before descending into the valley occupied by Quartzite. It only took about 10 minutes to pass through Quartzite, driving through city streets after leaving the interstate highway, but there were a few traffic jams. It was a bit of a surreal scene, with so many recreational vehicles everywhere, antique dealers, and fellows with long white beards riding bicycles. I headed out of town, driving due north on State Highway 95. Where the road ended in a T-intersection, I headed east. Just before the town of Bouse (I am not sure how to pronounce it--does it rhyme with "house"?), I left the highway on a road heading east. Surprisingly, so did a car in front of me, and together we drove slowly past a few houses. I turned north, by myself, before heading east into the rural desert landscape once more.
The road was a bit rough but was well graded, and I drove east on Winema Drive until reaching Swansea Road. I then drove northeast along this road to a 4 wheel drive trail that headed due north, just about on the 114th Meridian. I drove up a hill and then down a gully, but once I saw the ruts there, I backed up the hill in reverse and turned around at the top. It would not do to get a rental car stuck here in the desert, far from any aid. I then drove northeast again on Swansea Road, approaching the confluence by 1.4 miles at one point, but kept going in case the road came closer. When it became clear that the road would approach no closer, I turned around and drove back to the 1.4 mile spot, selected a spot on the side of the road to park, gathered supplies, donned sunblock and had, and quickly set out.
I really enjoyed this hike. It was short but actually quite varied in terrain and vegetation. The first part, on the east side, included the traverse of several dry gullies, with some slippery hillslopes. About 500 meters east of the confluence was a magnificent saguaro, the only one visible in any direction. I was so glad the hike took me right past it. I reached the confluence in about 25 minutes after a brisk pace. The confluence lies near a small gully, on a slope of about 15%, with magnificent views in all directions. Actually, the view to the west was best if one walked a few paces out of the gully toward the west. Mountain ranges lay in the distance in all directions, the sky was crystal clear; it was a bit breezy but a very pleasant 75 F. The ground was 75% bare dirt and stones, with ocotillo, cholla, sagebrush, and a few other desert shrubs dotting the landscape.
I had stood on 34 North a number of times from California on the west, in Texas, and to North Carolina on the east, but amazingly, this was my first time on 114 West. It was one of the very few lines of longitude in the USA that I had not stood on, and I enjoyed the Centered Moment. After only 15 minutes on site filming movies and taking photographs, I reluctantly left the scene, making sure I had not left anything behind except my footprints.
On the return trip, I stopped to film the saguaro. I was enjoying my hike so much that I also filmed a spatial thinking while hiking movie. The total hike time came in at just about one hour, including 10 minutes at the site and 25 minutes to the point, and 25 minutes back out. I considered returning through Parker, since I had never been there, but thought that it would be a traffic jam of RVs after the holiday weekend. Therefore, I opted go return the way I had come out here, via I-10. But I allowed myself one indulgence: I drove through Bouse, southeast, then south on a county road containing some wonderful dips and swells and views of saguaro backed by buttes and mesas. This had the advantage of not needing to navigate the streets of Quartzsite. After reaching US Highway 60, I drove west to I-10, and continued back into California. I reached my destination before 5:00pm. The confluence visit was indeed an excellent way to begin the new year.